a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Making Meaning

Over my spring break, I have been immersing myself in poetry to help prepare myself for National Poetry Month and all that it means for my classroom. By surrounding myself with poetry, I can’t help but be inspired and renew my passion in a way that will surely be evident when I walk into the classroom tomorrow morning.

I have gained so much inspiration, that my biggest struggle is to break it into digestible chunks for my students as well as for me. My thinking is a work in progress…

This morning, in an effort to reach my five book goal for spring break, I picked up The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sîs. I was quickly drawn into the language, the illustrations, the story. And I read the book all the way through in one sitting. I never do that. I fell so in love with the language in this book that I started diagramming sentences in my head as I read. Now that is true love.

I have never diagrammed a sentence in my head while reading. It became a new way to savor the language, to absorb it, to own it. Here are some sample sentences I worked on:

“He stepped down onto the streets of Santiago, to make his way in the world.”

“Although he had changed his name, his history came with him, even to his writing.”

“The rhythm of his rain-soaked childhood became a sequence of words.”

The Dreamer is a fictional work based on the life of poet Pablo Neruda. Need I say more? It is a true case of the language and format matching the content.

The instant I closed the book, I was moved to write. The political nature of the writing near the end of the story birthed the idea that I could turn a moment, which had previously been fodder for something as scant as a Facebook status, into a poem. It was a moment in which I had searched for meaning. The kind of moment that nags at you. Writing it has allowed me to find the meaning in it. Isn’t this a true purpose of writing? To find meaning?


I’ve never been the type to get a manicure.
Such girlish indulgences are not my style.
I don’t pay for eyebrow maintenance
or to have the telltale signs of aging
on my upper lip removed.
But the hair—
the hair needs help.
I work hard and pay well to give the hair
what little life it has.

When my husband and I sat down
to shave our budget,
we did not shave my hair.
Even he agrees it is one
necessary extravagance.

So, when I walked out of the salon
That Monday morning
Into the empty parking lot
I was blindsided by the fury

A high-pitched mocking call echoed across the pavement
amongst the brick columns.

The hatred licked at my ears,

“Must be nice to go to a day spa,
while I was jumping out of planes,”

The footsteps rushed closer.
I fled towards my car.
The voice spat at me,

“You make me sick.”

I did not look up.

I breathlessly slid into the front seat of the car
clicked the lock button
and breathed.

In the safety of the locked car
I felt shielded


I watched the
military issue buzz-cut
dark, beady eyes
and well-worn backpack
continue on a path away
from my car.

I felt relieved.
I was trying to shake the heart-pounding fear.
I felt righteous.
I felt guilty.

“What did I do wrong?” I silently asked myself.

Why do I deserve this?
It isn’t my fault
he chose to enlist.
It isn’t my fault
he endured the horrors of a war
he never saw coming.
It isn’t my fault
for getting my hair done
while countless others are enduring the horrors of a war
they never saw coming.

It is my fault

for forgetting.